Full disclosure -- I'm an over-the-top Broncos fan. You can only imagine what I did this offseason when Josh McDaniels took over for Mike Shanahan, and created a media circus that Britney Spears would envy. Let's just say I had my doubts about the ringleader when he shipped Jay Cutler out of town, went on an erratic running back shopping spree, and lost control of his star WR Brandon Marshall. Seriously, being a Bronco fan during that time required heavy meds.
So, did you stay away from all Broncos at your drafts because of all the changes and inner-turmoil? Me too. Well, McDaniels is making us look like over-reacting chumps. The Broncos are undefeated, have the ninth best offense in the NFL, and have a host of weapons.
Let's "Deconstruct" the Broncs.
Yeah, this is what many Broncos fans were asking after McDaniels cut ties with the whining Cutler, and scooped up Kyle Orton from the Bears. It's not every day that a first-year coach deals away a young franchise QB. Most fantasy owners justifiably shied away from Orton at drafts given his inconsistent past, the learning curve associated with a new offensive scheme, and the uncertainty surrounding Marshall.
Orton deserves more respect. He finished last year as the 18th ranked fantasy QB, throwing for 2,972 yards and 18 TDs, in an ultra-conservative Bears offense. More importantly, if McDaniels' offense could make Matt Cassel look good in New England, we should have known Orton could put up respectable numbers in the system. C'mon, it's all about "the system" and not the players, as coaches like McDaniels, Andy Reid, and Bill Belichick like to say.
Let's get one thing straight: you can't compare Orton to Cutler. Orton simply doesn't have the same tools. Nevertheless, he is getting the job done through the short-passing game and quick screen offense that McDaniels runs. Through four games, Orton has a 68-percent completion rate, 906 passing yards, five passing TDs, and zero INTs.
Sure, Orton is not a QB1. In fact, he currently ranks as the 15th best QB. He will probably finish the year right around this slot, and he makes for an excellent bye-week fill-in or spot starter if the matchup is tasty. Orton is in a great position to have moderate success because he's running a low-risk passing offense and chucking the rock to a solid stable of receivers. Orton will have some horrendous games, though. The former Bear goes through streaks where it looks like he's targeting the chain crew rather than his own WRs. Thus, he's a risky play whenever you throw him out there.
Orton's Week 5 Outlook (vs. NE): 210 Pass YDs, 1 Pass TD, 3 INTs
Keep Orton on the splintered pine this week. The Patriots have the seventh-best passing defense. Further, if anyone knows how to put McDaniels' offense on lockdown, it's Belichick. Orton has struggled against blitzes up the gut this year. It's strange, but he tucks the ball away and puts his head down any time a blitzer sees daylight up the middle. Well, Belichick will be sending a Patriot army down his throat this week. It won't be pretty.
Knowshon Moreno garnered most of the rookie hype coming into the season. The Broncos grabbed him with the 12th overall pick because of his multi-dimensional tools. While he lacks top-notch speed, he's a superb cutback runner, an excellent receiver, and dependable blocker. Again, here's a guy that fits perfectly into McDaniels short-passing scheme.
Moreno went later in fantasy drafts than expected because he was hindered by a sprained MCL at the end of preseason. For the same reason, he also got off to a slow start, posting 19 rushing yards in Week One against the Bengals. Since then, Moreno has looked better every week, and his YPC has been climbing (4.6 last week versus the Cowboys). On the year, he has 249 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards, and two total TDs.
The Georgia product currently ranks as the 23rd best RB in the land. It will only get better. Correll Buckhalter has looked surprisingly explosive and powerful in a time share with Moreno, compiling 363 total yards and a TD. Nonetheless, Moreno will begin to steal more of Buckhalter's touches as the year progresses because simply he has better skills. And as usual, Buckhalter is banged up (sprained ankle), and will miss this week's game. Moreno will seize the opportunity.
Moreno's Week 5 Outlook (vs. NE): 95 Rush YDs, 1 Rush TD, 5 Rec, 38 Rec YDs, 0 Rec TDs
Moreno is a solid RB2 play this week v. New England. The Pats have a decent rush defense (ranked 11th). Nevertheless, Moreno will get more touches in the absence of Buckhalter. McDaniels most likely will run the ball more to keep New England's offense off the field. In addition, Moreno also will play a big part in the passing game given the Patriots' "bend-but-don't-break" defensive scheme. Expect solid numbers across the board.
Marshall, a.k.a 'Baby T.O.', dropped like a cruise ship anchor at drafts because of his behavior and eventual team suspension. Fortunately for Marshall owners, eventually he learned the playbook and joined his teammates on the field.
Baby T.O. owners now have sickening grins on their faces because they grabbed a back-end WR1, or strong WR2, at a WR3 (or less) price. Marshall has nine catches for 158 yards and two scores over his last two games. He could put up mammoth numbers in this offense given his YAC ability. Well, Marshall and McDaniels may be all hugs and kisses now, but will it last when the going gets tough? Marshall is the ultimate risk/reward diva.
Nationwide "Royal alerts" have already been issued by law enforcement agencies on behalf of fantasy owners in thirty-seven states. They want to know what happened to "the next Wes Welker" (otherwise knows as Eddie Royal). Royal had 91 receptions for 980 receiving yards and five TDs last year, and finished his rookie season as the 20th ranked WR. Royal has been non-existent in the Orton-led offense with eight receptions, 58 receiving yards, and zero TDs on the season. Ouch. Derrick Mason had better numbers in his opening series last week. Really, he did.
Royal has even been splitting time with the ever-dangerous Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney has even outperformed Royal hauling in 11 passes for 154 yards. It's been an embarrassing season for the sophomore receiver, but I anticipate a rebound for "Fast Eddie." The Broncos are starting to run Royal on some shorter pass routes rather than sending him deep. Eventually, this will pay off as Royal has the skills to be a YAC monster. Buy low on this dude. He's too talented to continue to struggle.
Marshall's Week 5 Outlook (vs. NE): 5 Rec, 58 Rec YDs, 0 Rec TDs
Marshall will have an average week at best. Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden are savvy CBs and will attempt to get in Marshall's head. The trash-talking between Springs and Marshall will be legendary. Marshall will get a handful of catches, but he won't break a long one. I have little faith Marshall will break many long ones the rest of the year given how inaccurate Orton is with the deep ball. Expect WR3 numbers this week.
Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler aren't fantasy options in McDaniels' offense. McDaniels claimed that he would get Scheffler looks because of his receiving ability. That made sense considering Scheffler had 40-plus receptions and 500-plus receiving yards over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, for Scheffler owners, it hasn't happened. Graham actually has more targets than Scheffler at the quarter pole. Keep these secondary receiving options off your squads.
Scheffler's Week 5 Outlook (vs. NE): 3 Rec, 31 Rec YDs, 0 Rec YDs
Hit Bill Root with a tweet @FantasyRoots or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any pressing fantasy football questions.